Since 2006, Takoma Foundation has sought out and recognized the community’s biggest difference makers through our annual Azalea Awards.
We’re proud to present this year’s award winners, as well as all their fellow nominees below.
Lara Marks Finder and Amber Bell, director and board chair of the Takoma Park Child Development Center, kept their nursery school operating during the pandemic and also kept students and staff safe and healthy.
Leandra Nichola, proprietor of a “youth-centered, queer-friendly, micro-cafe" in Old Takoma, also provides a platform for local artists and craftspeople, including several children, to sell their work.
Chris Brown, an entrepreneur extraordinaire, has the knack of creating businesses such as the dynamic and evolving BevCo that meet a community need while furthering the values of Takoma Park.
Chris Hishmeh of Olive Lounge immediately offered the use of his patio when a local group of artisans was looking for a safe outdoor space during the pandemic to sell their jewelry, bags, plants, and candles.
A few years ago Dean Paris, owner of Paris Design, produced the popular Takoma Park Playground Guide and since then has updated the guide twice more, all at no charge.
Tommy’s Pantry is now in its third year of successfully raising funds and organizing volunteers to find, pack, and distribute food, cleaning products and healthcare items to families in crisis at home.
As coordinator of Small Things Matter, Roxanne Yamashita quickly expanded her group’s food deliveries, adding hot meals, gift cards, arts and crafts, snack packs, school supplies, clothes, toys and Cups of Cheer.
Since the beginning of Covid-19, Ken Flemmer has worked long, relentless shifts as the person in charge of distributing food for 950,000 meals through the Adventist Community Services of Greater Washington.
Mark Harper, pastor of Takoma Park Presbyterian Church, led a campaign to ensure that the resources allocated to the City of Takoma Park from the American Rescue Plan Act went to our neighbors most affected by the pandemic.
When Covid-19 vaccinations were difficult to schedule Louise Jung, with no organizational support, took it on herself to get appointments for those of us who are older or are recent arrivals in our community.
When the pandemic shuttered many businesses Silver Spring Cares arranged for local restaurants to sell meals at cost, which kept their doors open, their employees paid and made customers happy.
Throughout Covid-19, Leslie Sluger and her team at NatureLab engaged dozens of children in botanical experiments, artwork, and, most importantly, a fun time outdoors with their peers.
Ross Wells turned his backyard into a relief center for immigrant families, packaging beans, rice and fresh produce along with surplus boxes from food banks, and then delivering everything to distribution sites.
In 2006 Karen McPherson became Takoma Park’s children’s librarian after 30 years in journalism that included a long-running weekly book column for Scripps Howard. At the library she created a new teen section and the Banned Books Club that won a national award for “personal courage and contributions to intellectual freedom.” Mainly, though, she was popular for her own eye-to-eye chats with kids. You could tell when one of her programs was about to start because there’d be a line all the way to the parking lot.
As president of the Essex House tenants association Aleksandra Miskovic helps her neighbors resolve landlord issues, hosts events for children and seniors, distributes books and school backpacks, and provides a long list of other services.
Lara Kris Watson started a “free bin” in her yard, where people could drop off useful items and other people could pick them up. Around town more people took notice, and one bin grew into many bins.
Susan Comfort’s contributions to her neighborhood include a beautiful sidewalk mural, care and attention to a City rain garden, an obstacle course of tree stumps for kids, a dance party for adults and much more.
For more than 20 years “Joe” Huebner has been a lifeline for the homebound, a source of insight and resources for neighbors in need, and a beacon of light regarding all things that matter.
When the pandemic hit Sarah Voisin created the Takoma Free Art Library, stocking it herself, and organized much appreciated weekly art classes in neighborhood backyards and gave away masks she made herself.
Joyce McDonough helped launch and lead the outdoor lunch program at TPES and PBES during the tough winter months of the Omicron surge, training volunteers to manage more than 1000 students who were able to eat safely in fresh air.
Emma Cheuse, as a Piney Branch Elementary PTA vice president, helped found the Panthers and Dolphins Rainbow Club for LGBTQ+ elementary school students and families, a crucial and groundbreaking step.
Jaime Koppel, active in the PTAs at both Piney Branch and Takoma Park Middle, established and coordinated the Parents at Lunch program, giving students a choice of where to eat while parents and staff got to know each other.
As a PTA vice president at Takoma Park Middle, Greg Swaluk recruits and keeps track of members, administers a website, social media accounts and two listservs, and organizes events such as the Spring Festival of Color.
Kevin Buchanan’s time of helping folks in Greater Takoma spans three and a half decades. Kevin has been a mentor and role model for an entire generation of people, young and old, many of them neighbors in the high-rise Hampshire Tower Apartments.
AJ Campbell has raised our consciousness of antisemitism, organizing our community to be aware and speak out, and we also have her to thank for legislation requiring window guards rental units with children under age 11, at no cost to the renter.
When not leading her 7th-grade Girl Scout troop, Shana Fulcher is leading her 10th-grade troop and managing the Service Unit for the Girl Scouts of Takoma Park/Silver Spring. She is a leader for the leaders.
Since arriving in Takoma Park two years ago Sawa Kamara has jumped into civic activism with both feet, not deterred by the pandemic, serving on advisory boards, distributing food and other necessities, promoting vaccinations and joining in a mutual aid group.
When Covid-19 kept many kids stuck at home Shannon Earle made sure the kids in her Forest Explorers classes spent time in the woods in every season, rain or shine, learning about the animals and plants that share our environment.
When Tom Radman noticed that kids often end up on a waitlist if their households aren’t savvy about registering via the Internet, he arranged for kids to play basketball for free, initially at an indoor gym and now on outdoor courts, with him as their instructor.
For the last eight years Kim Connell has coached the girls of the Takoma Soccer Killer Bees, devoting time to know each player’s strengths, pushing them to play their best while not taking themselves too seriously.
For several seasons Julia Lipton Marnon coached two Takoma Soccer teams, consistently focused on building everyone’s confidence despite inevitable challenges, particularly in those young girls willing to play with boys.
Terrence McDonough and Stephane de Messieres have kept the Red Turkeys 5th-grade soccer team together since nursery school by teaching teamwork, sportsmanship and character and also inspiring the kids with trips to professional games, both men’s and women’s.
Remi Parker is one of those special people who leaves you feeling a warm glow. He motivates everyone, even the prove-it-to-me 8th-graders on the Navy Narwhals team he helps coach in Takoma Soccer.